William Shakespeare, Pioneer Sonneteer in English Literature

William Shakespeare, pioneer Sonneteer in English literature

William Shakespeare stands in the front rank of major sonneteers and dramatist of the Elizabethan Age. His literary creations exhibits a rare combination of depth , variety, simplicity and richness of thoughts. His sonnets are the lyrical expressions of their author's perception of friendship and devotion to his love and of his experiences and ideals.

In this article, I have tried to bring out the poetic qualities of his sonnets that reveals Shakespeare's greatness as a sonneteer.

Sonnets by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare had to his credit a collection of 154 sonnets. Published in 1690 by Thomas Thrope, his sonnet sequence have been divided into two major groups- sonnet 1 to 126 is a glowing tribute to his friends, the Earl of Southampton, and sonnet 127 to 152 are addressed to the "Dark Lady" . The last two sonnets,153and 154, are concerned with the power that the passion of love or the God of love has over human beings. The whole sequence, passing through a variety of themes like marriage, friendship, love, self-love, the ravages of time, mortality and death and so on, remains a fine collection of poems on a variety of mood and psychological trends.


Characteristics of  William Shakespeare as a Sonneteer

A detailed examination of Shakespeare's sonnets with regard to some characteristic literary qualities will reveal his skill in handling the sonnet form and thereby, also his pre eminence as a sonneteer. His sonnets are highly imaginative and intensely emotional poems containing a profusion of striking, vivid and realistic images, abound in felicities of word and phrases.

Moreover, his sonnets had a plentiful use of speech and is characterized by rich musical effects. In short, the sonnets of Shakespeare are highly romantic one which touch the high water mark of English lyricism.

The first requirement of a good sonnet is the unity of structure. The thoughts has to be expressed in a condensed form so that it doesn't take more than fourteen lines to develop and yet is develop adequately. Shakespeare's sonnets are a fine example of this concentration of meaning and economy of language. "SONNET 116" is a fine example of this. Here, the poet has employed one hundred and ten of the simplest words in the language, and two of the simplest rhyme schemes, to produce a poem that is flawless and perfect.

Shakespeare's rich and fertile imagination shows itself in several ways. For instance, it shows itself in the manner in which he offers images and pictures to our mind by use of appropriate words. Shakespeare is one of the greatest word painters, and this gift is perceived in all his sonnets to a remarkable extent.

The aptness and originality of the words and phrases used by Shakespeare in his sonnets are another literary merit of him. Shakespeare's mastery of the language is unsurpassed, and his verbal resource are inexhaustible. Thus, his sonnets are characterized by the felicity of words and phrases like,

         "Love is not love
                 Which alters when it's alteration finds".

Shakespeare's sonnets are also memorable for their intensity of emotion , their sponteneity and their musical effects. There are some sonnets in which we have all these qualities in a combination and are also free from bombast and rhetoric. Thus, his sonnets are an outstanding and fine combination of lyrical appeal, music and melody.

As regards the structure of his sonnets, Shakespearean had adopted the English or Shakespearean form consisting of three quatrains and a concluding couplet in the rhyming pattern of ab ab cd cd ef ef g g.

William Shakespeare as a Sonneteer

Hope our discussion in the preceding stanzas throws much light on Shakespeare's pre eminence as a great sonneteer of all ages.   From every point of view and in every respect he remained a genius in this field. The variety of themes dealt with in his sonnets, the lyrical appeal of the poems, the striking images and pictures, the wealth of conceits, the unrivalled powers of expression of the poet, the felicities of language, the art of condensation displayed by the poet, the melody and music- all these combines to make the sonnets one of the richest poetic treasures and thereby ensuring an unrivalled place for Shakespeare in the history of English literature.



In this article I have tried to give as much as I acquired during my study on Shakespeare.

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